Indoor Air Quality: What you smell can hurt you
Remember that popular refrain, "Oh I love that new car smell!" Well that scent is the off-gasing of thousands of toxic chemicals used in the upholstery, carpet, plastics and sealants used to build your sporty new ride. The same toxic chemicals, and even more of them, are often found in our homes. What's worse is that we typically ADD to the problem every day through our use of paints, cleaners, air fresheners, and the other chemicals we use to "improve" our homes.
It may come as a shock to learn that according to the EPA the air in our homes is often two to five times more poisonous than the air outside. There are many sources of indoor air pollution: furniture or cabinets made of pressed wood products, damp carpets, pesticides, cleaners, tobacco smoke, hobby supplies, mold and the list goes on. These chemicals can cause and aggravate allergies, some have been linked to nervous system disorders, and some of them are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Immediate effects can show up as sore throats, itchy eyes, headaches or fatigue. Longer term effects can be much worse.
The three main ways to improve your home's indoor air quality are: 1) limit the sources of pollution; 2) clean your air; 3) improve your ventilation. We'll give you ideas and tools for each of these steps.
Step 1, Limit the Sources:
Use greener cleaners. There are great non-toxic alternatives to the chemical-ladden home cleaners we buy at the drug store every day. Seventh Generation and Begley's Best both sell a range of great toxin-free cleaning products. See our selection.
If you want to stick with the standard cleaning brands, at least do yourself the favor of buying pump-action types rather than aerosols--the aerosols distribute chemicals more widely into the air, and thus penetrate your lungs more easily. And open the windows when you clean to ventilate the bad stuff out of your house.
New carpeting is a very dangerous source of nasty chemicals. Fortunately there are wonderful natural carpeting options. Sea grass, sisal, natural untreated wool...these options are beautiful and healthy for your family. To find a natural carpet supplier in your area, click here.
If you must go with a traditional carpet, look for the Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus, which specifies limits of the chemicals rugs can emit. And if you get the normal type of carpet that does carry harmful chemicals, try to have it installed during a temperate month of the year so that you can open all of your windows and vent your home. You might want to consider staying in a hotel for a few nights during that period.
Ditto for painting. If you are going to paint rooms in your home, non-VOC paints are the safe way to go. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, and yoiu really don't want any of those in your body. Fortunately there are now several great brands of healthy paints. See our selection.
But if you plan to use standard paints (with VOCs), follow the instructions above for carpet and air out your home. Definitely get pregnant women and kids away from this stuff!
If you dry clean your clothes with a traditional cleaner, then air out your clothes outside for as long as possible before brining them inside. Better yet, find a green dry cleaner in your area.
Don't store painting solvents, fertilizers, or other chemicals you use infrequently in your home. Put them in the garage, and seal them tightly.
Step 2, Clean Your Air:
Get a room air cleaner. These little machines help remove pollution and are small enough to fit in any room. They can really improve your allery symptoms as well. We recommend one next to the bed and in your kids' rooms. See our air cleaners.
Make sure to change the air filter for your furnace or AC system at the start of each new season. Filters are traps for dust and pollutants in our homes. When we shut off the furnace for the year that stuff sits there collecting more grime and likely some mold to boot. New filters also improve the energy efficiency of your air systems. Change the filter-- it's cheap and easy. Get a filter here.
Before a new heating season, have your ducts cleaned and inspected. Sealing will keep the bad stuff out during the off times, and save money and energy during when the system is in use.Find a duct-servicing company in your area.
Step 3, Improve Your Ventilation:
The first step is quite obvious: open the windows whenever you can. Cross-ventilation is key. Use the exhaust fan over you stove to remove toxic gases-- but make sure the vent actually takes the exhaust to the outside of your home. Some vent back into the house. We hope this has helped you take some action so that you can breathe easy! Individual results of using green products and services listed herein may vary. Low Impact Living, Inc. takes no responsibility for individual results, nor for service providers or products listed on this website.
The first step is quite obvious: open the windows whenever you can. Cross-ventilation is key.
Use the exhaust fan over you stove to remove toxic gases-- but make sure the vent actually takes the exhaust to the outside of your home. Some vent back into the house.
We hope this has helped you take some action so that you can breathe easy!
Individual results of using green products and services listed herein may vary. Low Impact Living, Inc. takes no responsibility for individual results, nor for service providers or products listed on this website.